WALNUT CREEK -- As of Wednesday, downtown -- and much of the rest of the city -- is officially smoke-free.
While there are still a few places in Walnut Creek where one can light up, a controversial ordinance adopted in October prohibiting smoking throughout the city is now in effect.
The law bans smoking in and around multiunit residences, in the downtown area, in all recreational areas and at all commercially zoned properties. Perhaps easier to remember are places the ban does not apply -- single-family homes, some public sidewalks outside downtown, as well as public and private golf courses.
For the past few months Matt Huffaker, assistant to the city manager, has met with property and business owners to inform them of the new ordinance and teach them how to comply.
Signs have gone up throughout the city saying where smoking is prohibited. They provide a phone number for the no-smoking hotline where people can file a complaint.
"We really are not sure how many calls we will get," Huffaker said. "We know in other cities that they didn't have a wave when it first started, but time will tell."
Those who wish to complain also can go online, and there is even an app called "SeeClickFix" which can be used for submitting complaints. A temporary city employee will man the hotline, deal with complaints and, if necessary, alert the city's code enforcement officers.
Violators can be cited with fines starting at $100 for the first infraction, $300 for the second and $500 thereafter. After that, the new law gives the city attorney power to bring a civil suit against an offender.
Huffaker stresses that the law is not intended to make the city money but instead is a way to deal with a public health threat. Citations won't be issued right away, he said.
"We realize this is a new law, and our goal is to work on educating first and issuing a warning," he said.
While the law may be in effect now, Councilman Justin Wedel is working to get part of the law overturned. He believes making it illegal to smoke inside multifamily units violates people's property rights. He is trying to get an initiative on the November ballot to undo the ban.
For more information, go to www.walnut-creek.org/nosmoking.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.